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by G. Sax, Director of Growth Management, RESO

Welcome to “Three Questions,” an interview series that introduces you to real estate industry professionals, their businesses and how they interact with real estate standards with a goal of humanizing the tech side of the industry, fun included.

This week’s interview is with Marilyn Wilson, Managing Partner at WAV Group, a sought after real estate industry consultant that you’ve likely seen or heard speak at a multitude of functions. Marilyn is deeply involved in many aspects of topics familiar to RESO members, and this conversation naturally strayed off our usual three-question path with delightful results. The written transcript of this video interview closely follows the actual dialogue with a few adjustments for clarity and grammar. Enjoy!

Q1: I see your face and some other familiar faces from WAV Group and CRMLS (California Regional Multiple Listing Service) on the Greater Southern MLS website. Can you explain that initiative, why CRMLS is involved and why the Louisiana MLS space has become such a hotbed for activity?

Marilyn: There are about 70ish brokers in Louisiana that felt like they were not getting the support, guidance, input and responsiveness that they needed to get from their MLSs, and so they decided to team up together and create their own.

RESO: So it’s a broker-run initiative.

Marilyn: It’s a broker-run initiative with ownership and participation from two of the associations in the state – the Northshore Area Board of REALTORS® and the Southwest Louisiana Association of REALTORS®. They sell the product. Much like many regionals, we wholesale it to them, and then it gets marked up and resold through the association, so they’d still get a margin like they would when they sell MLSs on their own.

It’s been super fun, because with broker mindset at the table all the time, and very actively engaged top producers and agents, and having the support of CRMLS, which we’ll talk about in a minute, we’re able to do things that really satisfied – in almost real time in many cases – things that agents need to be successful.

The whole role – in fact, the tagline is “the MLS focused on your success” – is all about doing what an agent and a broker needs to do whatever they need to do to be successful. So Greater Southern is the enabler, if you will. It’s there to do what they need us to do for them to be great.

The CRMLS connection is very interesting. Because many times when people think of an MLS expansion, they think of, you know, “I’m here and you’re here and so we’re next door so that makes sense.” The truth is, like we all know, everything’s in the cloud. Nobody’s actually serving up data or technology right there on premises.

So we talked to many different MLSs, we talked directly to vendors, we looked at a variety of approaches. CRMLS came back with a phenomenal program and have completely private labeled or white labeled it, depending on what words you like. If an agent picks up the phone, it says, “Greater Southern MLS.” If an agent goes to the chat at 11 o’clock at night and needs an answer on something, “Greater Southern MLS.” Everything is completely seamless to them.

What’s awesome – brag about CRMLS – they have 40–50 developers in house and, obviously, top-of-the-list priority with CoreLogic because they are the largest MLS in the country.

We had a top-producing agent that looked at something in the way that the search was going, and she said, “I don’t really like this. Could it do this?” And, literally, in 12 hours, it was fixed. She was blown away. That was probably the fifth or sixth thing she’d asked us for, and we just kept ticking away and ticking away, and she was just like “wow…this is…wow.”

You know, an agent is never going to be like, “Oh, my MLS is amazing,” but they’re starting to feel good that they got somebody that’s listening and responding, so it’s awesome.

RESO: So CRMLS is providing that technical backbone to allow you to be responsive to your client, essentially.

Marilyn: And they’re super responsive to us. We ask them to do all kinds of crazy things, because, as we know, the market is very dynamic and things change. Mark Bessett, Marty Reed, Adrese Roundtree and all of them stepped up. And it’s not just the leadership team. We also have – which is phenomenal – full access to the compliance team, full access to the marketing team, customer support, trainers. We have our own on-the-ground trainers that are CRMLS employees. It’s literally outsourcing the entire operation to the largest and some might argue the best MLS in the country, so it’s pretty neat.

RESO: This isn’t really an official question, just kind of a light follow-up. Is this the first time CRMLS has done this outside of the state [of California]?

Marilyn: I believe it is, yes. They have lots of creative initiatives. Of course, they have many of their own direct customers. But they have many data shares. They’re doing a lot of interesting different models, because at the end of the day, technology is not the limiter. It’s our creativity and it’s our ability to try to find better ways to collaborate and save on costs and time and energy. If you can build it for 200,000 people, why would you build it for 200.

It’s amazing, so we love it. It’s working great. It’s a lot of work, but it’s an awesome project.

RESO: We don’t have to get into why Louisiana is a hotbed of activity. There’s a lot of stuff going on there. Just know that if you’re watching or reading this, Louisiana, we’re watching you. There’s a lot happening in your state that’s very interesting to us in the industry.

Q2: There is plenty of change in the real estate industry, often on a weekly if not daily basis, but since I can’t get to all of it in three questions, what is one predominant trend that you are watching with interest? 

Marilyn: I would say from the MLS side of the house, the Remine acquisition is a great example of what I love to see happening. It started with Upstream and Broker Portal and MLS Grid and MLS Aligned. We’re seeing more and more collaborations coming together and people trying stuff. Will they all work? I’m sure they won’t. It’s business, right? Everything won’t work.

But when people are saying “let’s lay down our egos, let’s lay down our local ‘we’re better than you’ stuff” and getting together and figuring out a way to try to do things that really matter and that are going to really help your members to do things the better way, that’s awesome. Now, is it without pitfalls? No, it’s absolutely not.

We all have to know what we’re good at. MLSs are amazing at delivering services. They’re not necessarily technology companies; some are, but most aren’t. So, in the Remine example, get a professional technology expert that has run tech companies and understands the pace of change that you need to drive, and things like that, and sort of step back and let them do what they do.

Broker Portal is a good example. They said, “We’re not going to build that. Let’s bring in Homesnap. They’re going to deliver it, because they’re a technology company, and they have resources and capital and things that MLSs may not have individually.”

To me, that’s probably one of the most exciting things is to think about ways to do business and to clearly remember that MLSs are here to enable business. They are not the endgame. They’re the facilitator. Just like RESO is the facilitator of standards, they’re the facilitators of business opportunity. And as long as we remember that – that at the end of the day, we are not the customer, it’s them, it’s the broker, it’s the agent and it’s ultimately the consumer, and we’re focused on their needs – I think we’re all going to be better off.

Q3: Your daughter, Sparkles Lund, a college student, has already been an exceptional self-marketer through much of her life and has a natural knack for promotion – almost like she had parents who knew a thing or two about marketing. In my experience with my young adult children, there appears to be a hard split between those that take part in social media and those that do not at all. Yet they all interact intuitively with technology in ways that older generations simply do not. Do you think we’ll see gradual or hard changes in marketing and PR as these younger generations become dominant in the workplace?

Marilyn: I think we’re already seeing it. I mean she sent me a link the other day of a really cool property promotion on Tik-Tok. She was like, “You gotta look at this, mom.” And I was like, uh-oh, we’re sucking her into the marketing/real estate vortex! This is great. She’ll be working with us one day.

RESO: Yeah, Tik-Tok is something people over 30 don’t get.

Marilyn: No, but she thought that was the coolest thing ever that somebody in real estate found it. Tik-Tok’s the latest thing. What’s coming next week? Who knows?

RESO: Do you think this will be hard for generations to keep up with or are we going to be malleable enough?

Marilyn: I think COVID did one really interesting thing. It peeled back all of our facades. When you’re sitting in your spare bedroom and your dog walks in and the mailman’s at the door – all of this stuff of “we’re in our suits and we’re all polished,” we can’t go there anymore.

The thing I love about this generation is that they’re not the first gen, right? They’re like second or third. What they’re bringing to it is authenticity. And she will tell me. She will look at a post and she’s like, “Nooo. Definitely not.” It looks fake, it looks manufactured, it looks like some random social media agency that doesn’t know the brand.

So they’re learning. She’s a double major in advertising and business right now, and she’s working with people like the former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi – like big brand people. That old stuff – the “me, me, me” advertising and “I’m so great, you should follow me” – it doesn’t work. You’ve got to engage, you’ve got to be authentic, you’ve got to be dynamic, you’ve got to be in many different places, because you never know where your customer is going to be. That’s intuitive to them. They just know how to do that. I think we’re catching up at some level, but they’re great at it.

RESO: I want to make sure I’m not framing this as an “us vs. them.” We’re not trying to hold on to anything. Because even at this meeting [interview was filmed at the RESO 2021 Fall Conference], I am seeing a lot of young companies. RESO has a partnership with REACH and Second Century Ventures to bring in new blood. We absolutely want to engage that and all work together to learn how to advance in this new technology world that we live in.

Marilyn: I think they’re going to help us. But I also think, like in any good partnership, you have to have some domain experience and history, too. It’s not like, “We don’t do it that way.” Not that stuff. But there are patterns in any kind of business or dynamic.

We were laughing this week about “MLS of choice.” We’ve talked about that since 2001, and it comes in and it comes out.

To me, this generation is very nice. They’re not all trying to be dominant and kill each other.

RESO: They want to do business that makes sense and solves problems.

Marilyn: And they’re good listeners. So if they can take what we’ve learned, ingest it and then marry it with new thinking and contemporary ways of telling that story, I think the world’s the oyster for those guys.

I think it’s awesome, and it’s just fun. I just love talking to a company where they’re excited and you hear it and you’re like, “Wow, AI doing that?! Like that is really cool.” So it’s exciting for all of us.

RESO: I totally agree, and that’s why I used your kid as an example.

Marilyn: By the way, her name is now Alex Lund on Instagram.

RESO: Oh, a rebrand?

Marilyn: We’re going away from Sparkles now that we’re almost 19.